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Santa Barbara Unified School District Board President Laura Capps announced her campaign for a second term Monday morning via a video email blast to her supporters — a mark of the pandemic’s impact on the 2020 election and campaign issues.
“The most important role of a school board member is to be a strong voice for the community – especially now during this unprecedented time in our history,” Capps said in a statement. “Now that we are facing the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, that community voice in our schools is more important than ever. And experience matters.”
This is Capps’s second campaign of 2020. Her earlier shot at taking the 1st District Board of Supervisors seat from incumbent Das Williams failed. In the school board race, though, she is more poised to win with a four-year term already under her belt. Her campaign focuses on what she has already accomplished on the board.
Her main points include her work to advocate for sustainable energy within the district — because of a board decision, schools will soon be 94 percent solar-powered — as well as her support for low-income students, particularly through free-meal programs, and her push to close the achievement gap by “giving students more academic opportunities and more mental health support.”
Capps, mother to her 4th-grade son, Oscar, has made it clear in recent board meetings that her goal is to get students back on campus safely as soon as possible. Though Capps is the only candidate so far to publicly announce her candidacy, her seat is one of three up for grabs in December. The issue of sending students back to school will likely become a major one this season as other candidates register and announce their views on the issue.
Boardmembers Wendy Sims-Moten and Jackie Reid are also terming out with Capps, though they have not yet announced if they’re running for a second term. When the three women registered to run for the three vacant positions in 2016, nobody challenged them, and they received an automatic ride to the dais.
After a slew of high-profile controversies hit the district in recent years, parents and community members became more involved in the district and the school board’s decisions — to the point that community involvement became regular. The previous two meetings had hundreds in attendance, signaling that this year’s election likely won’t be as quiet as 2016’s.
Capps’s campaign also focused on how recent events have further spotlighted inequities in the school system — which will likely become another major issue for other candidates in the running.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement has simultaneously exposed existing inequities in our educational system,” Capps said. “Now we must redouble our efforts to make sure the needs of all students, especially those who are marginalized, are proactively met. And we must provide effective distance learning while preparing to return kids to their classrooms safely.”
The deadline to run is August 7.
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